WASHINGTON (CNN) – Few Virginians would describe Creigh Deeds as a great speaker. The Democratic candidate for governor frequently fumbles his words in press conferences and on debate stages. The Washington Post has described him as "stammering."
Now a top surrogate for Republican candidate Bob McDonnell is drawing some unwanted attention for outright mocking the Democrat's halting manner of speech.
Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of BET and one of the McDonnell campaign's most high-profile African-American backers, made fun of Deeds during a campaign event in Hampton Roads two weeks ago. The video of Johnson's remark was captured by the Democratic blog NotLarrySabato and posted online Monday.
"We need people who can communicate," Johnson said at the event, as McDonnell stood by in the audience. "And Bob McDonnell can communicate."
Johnson then said other politicians she talks to can't communicate, "especially his op-op-op-op-opponent."
The Deeds camp called it a "personal attack."
"Creigh's the first person to admit that he's not the smoothest talker and that he sometimes stumbles over his words," said Deeds spokesman Mo Elleithee. "But at least you know that what's he's saying is authentic, honest and true. That's what voters will respond to, not petty personal attacks."
The McDonnell campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: The McDonnell campaign claimed Johnson was simply accusing Deeds of straddling the fence on campaign issues.
“Creigh Deeds has been unable to express any vision for Virginia’s future, and he regularly takes two positions on important issues," said McDonnell spokeswoman Crystal Cameron. "Democratic businesswoman Sheila Johnson was noting that fact. Why the Deeds campaign wants to attack a prominent supporter of both Governor Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama, while reminding voters that she strongly supports Bob McDonnell for governor, is beyond us."